Indiana Deer Forecast 2010
October 18, 2010
Those hunters who are looking to fill their freezers with great-tasting venison this fall need look no farther than the counties highlighted here.
The Indiana state deer harvest record total was set during the 2008-09 season in which 129,752 animals were harvested statewide. Going into the 2009-10 season, a similar amount of deer was expected to fall to the bows, crossbows, guns and muzzleloaders of Hoosier hunters.
When the smoke cleared from last fall's season, a new record of 132, 752 whitetails had been checked into the state's many certified deer check-in stations. Chad Stewart, Indiana's head deer research biologist weighed in with his thoughts on the new record number and where he thinks this coming season's harvest numbers may fall.
"It's probably too soon to make a prediction. The state herd can definitely support another record year, but whether or not we actually reach that number will still depend on factors yet to be seen, like whether or not we'll have a bad year of EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease) like we did in 2007. Everything else equal, though, it's safe to assume the deer harvest for 2010 will exceed 125,000, and will probably come close to or exceed 130,000. When there is no significant change to the season it is unrealistic to expect changes in harvest numbers," Stewart said.
One harvest trend Stewart has observed is that the past two years have been the first two years in recent history, and maybe ever, where hunters actually harvested more female deer than male deer.
"Our antlerless harvest has exceeded our antlered harvest for 20 years now, but the 2008 and 2009 seasons were the first time when our hunters actually harvested more female deer than male deer (antlered and button bucks combined).
The top overall harvest county in the state was once again Steuben County with 4,102 deer, followed by Kosciusko (3,652), Switzerland (3,223), Noble (3,063) and Franklin (3,063). Dearborn County came in at No. 6 for the year with 2,981, and Marshall (2,936), Parke (2,881), Harrison (2,776) and Washington (2,626) rounded out the Top 10.
In the past this special Indiana GAME & FISH feature article has shown that Indiana was broken up into a total of seven Deer Zones. In this latest installment we'll catch up with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), as they've since broken up the state into 15 separate Wildlife Management Districts.
District 1 is a seven-county area in extreme northwest Indiana. The district is bordered by Lake Michigan to the north and the Wabash River to the south. With sandy soils in the northern portion, and more traditional farm ground in the southern portion, it offers a variety of habitat types, from dune-like areas along Lake Michigan to heavily timbered areas in the east to a more traditional plains-type farm ground in the south.
District 1 produced a total of 7,901 deer in 2009 with Jasper County leading the way with its 1,601 tally. Following Jasper County was Porter with 1,487 deer.
LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area (FWA) is an almost-4,000-acre public land option that lies in Newton and Lake counties, and Jasper-Pulaski FWA is another bet in nearby Jasper County.
District 2 is a seven-county area in the extreme north-central part of the state. The northern tier counties also offer a more sandy type soil with a more traditional woodlot and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) mixture in the southern areas. There are also several natural lakes and their respective watersheds mixed into this array of habitats.
District 2 produced a total of 15,282 deer last year. Kosciusko County led the way, with 3,652 animals, followed by Marshall County with 2,936. District 2 has a high deer density overall.
A public land opportunity in this district is 4,095-acre Kankakee FWA in Starke County, and another option here is Tri-County FWA in nearby Kosciusko County.
District 3 is located in extreme northeast Indiana and encompasses much of the Natural Lakes Region of the state. Again the soils in the northern section of the district are more sandy/loamy, with a more traditional clay-dominated soil in the southern portions. There is a very diverse mixture of rolling hills in the northern part of the district and more traditional flat areas close to the Ohio state line.
The area is best described as woodlot country, but there is quite a bit of CRP land mixed in as well. Some areas in the district are heavily timbered, and there is a multitude of swamps, creeks, marshes and lakes.
This five-county district produced 13,557 whitetails last year with Steuben County leading the way with 4, 102 total deer taken.
Pigeon River FWA is a nearly 12,000-acre public hunting area in Steuben and LaGrange counties.
District 4 is located just south of District 2 in north-central Indiana. The northern part of this six-county area lies partially in the Wabash Valley, while the southern portion dips into the Tipton Till plains. Woodlots are again the dominant landscape feature with some thick river bottom sections of timber mixed in. This is also home to a couple of the Army Corp of Engineers manmade reservoirs in Salamonie and Mississinewa.
A total of 8,291 deer were harvested in this district last year. Leading the way was Fulton County with a total of 2,130 whitetails, followed by Wabash with 1,742.
Mississinewa Lake is a 14,386-acre public land opportunity in this zone.DISTRICT 5
District 5 lies in the northeast area of the state as well, just south of District 3. Ft. Wayne's urban sprawl is the dominant feature in the northern portion, with gently rolling valleys and hills in the western portion, and giving way to the bigger agricultural plains of the south. There is plenty of timber in portions of this district, and there is also plenty of flat woodlot habitat as well.
This seven-county district produced a total of 6,236 deer for the year. Allen County led the group with 1,781 deer taken.
A public land opportunity exists in Huntington Coun
ty in J. Edward Roush Lake, with its 8,217-acre hunting and fishing area.
District 6 is a six-county area in the west-central part of the state. A big part of this district is comprised of the thickly timbered Wabash Valley. The dominant river system in this district is the Wabash, along with Sugar Creek. The southern portion of the district gives way to some timbered hills and ridges that are mixed in with abundant farm ground. It is a very diverse habitat mix that supports good numbers of deer.
Leading the district was Parke County with 2,881 deer, followed by Putnam with 2,059.
Raccoon State Recreation Area offers nearly 5,000 acres of public land deer hunting in District 6.
District 7 lies almost in the exact middle of the state and is comprised of nine counties. This area is known for its relatively flat topography and large agricultural fields. The district also includes the city of Indianapolis with its urban sprawl and checkerboard habitat.
While there is less timber in this section of the state overall, when compared to many neighboring districts, the area can hold good numbers of deer where suitable timbered habitat exists. And, there are some areas in the district that have excellent timber stands that hold plenty of deer. This area is a portion of the broader United States Corn Belt, and corn truly is king in this part of the state.
The district produced 3,618 total whitetails in 2009 with the top county being Madison with 658 total deer.
District 8 is in east-central Indiana and is the eastern neighbor to District 7. This area is also a part of the Corn Belt, with large agricultural fields and scattered woodlots in the north, and a more heavily timbered and rolling topography in the south and east. This seven-county district produced 4,902 deer last fall.
Wayne County led all counties here with a total harvest of 1,117 whitetails and was followed by Fayette with 860.
While the central part of the state doesn't have the deer densities more northerly and southerly districts do, there are pockets of great habitat mixed in with the more traditional open farm areas that hold some numbers of deer.
A portion of Brookeville Lake lies in Union County, offering deer hunting to the public.
District 9 is a five-county area in west-central Indiana. This area of Indiana has been perhaps best known for its coal mining operations over the years. With reclimated stripper hills in the southern portion of the district and a more traditional ridged/hilly timbered habitat in the north, this district offers a nice array of habitat types for deer. There are some pockets here with outstanding numbers of deer.
The district produced a total of 8,042 deer for 2009. Leading all counties was Greene, with 2,049, which was followed by Sullivan at 1,764.
One public land option is 2,291-acre Chinook FWA in Clay County; another is 5,000-acre Minnehaha in nearby Sullivan County.
District 10 is in the south-central part of the state and is one of the most heavily timbered areas in Indiana. At nearly 26,000 acres, Morgan-Monroe State Forest is in this district too. This part of the state has plenty of timber to support large numbers of deer. The northern part of the district has a more traditional agricultural look to it, while the southern portion is more heavily timbered and rugged.
This district produced 7,461 whitetails in 2009, with Jackson County leading the way with 2,023 deer. Following Jackson closely was Brown County, which coughed up 1,968 animals.
Monroe Lake is a nearly 24,000-acre public land option here in Monroe and Brown counties, as is 18,000-acre Jackson-Washington State Forest.
In the southeastern tip of Indiana, bordering the Ohio River in the south and the state of Ohio in the east, lays District 11 with its excellent combination of steep timbered bluffs and hollows, and fertile river bottom soils. The habitat here holds a large density of whitetails, and this six-county area produced 12,977 total deer last year.
Leading the way in this district was Switzerland County with 3,223 total deer. Following closely was Franklin with 3,063. With favorable habitat and intermixed farm ground, this area of the state should continue to produce big numbers of deer.
A great public land option lies in the 50,000-acre federally run Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge in Ripley County.PAGE 4
Nestled in the southwestern quadrant of the state is the five-county District 12. The area is known for its well timbered hills and hollows and its abundant river bottom habitats. The Wabash River is the western border of the zone, and the White and Patoka rivers also snake through the entire zone.
This area tallied a total of 6,921 deer for 2009 and was led by Dubois County, with 1,863 deer. Martin County followed close behind with 1,650 deer.
This area of the state was one that was hit solidly by EHD in recent years and is still probably recovering from it slightly. Look for harvest figures here to slowly climb in the next few seasons.
A public land option here is the 8,100-acre Sugar Ridge FWA, which lies primarily in Pike County.
District 13 lies in extreme south-central Indiana and is bordered by the Ohio River in the south. This five-county area, which has much of the Hoosier National Forest (HNF) within its borders, is perhaps the most heavily timbered area in the entire state. Because of the ultra heavy timbered habitat, there are many deer in this portion of Indiana.
This district produced 11,274 deer last year, with Harrison County leading the way with the 2,776 deer it cranked out. Washington County trailed right behind with its 2,626 harvest number.
The deer density in this area is still plenty high, even with the past issues with EHD in and around the area. Look for slight increases as populations continue to recover.
Another public land opportunity, in addition to the HNF, is nearby Harrison-Crawford State Forest at around 24,000 acres.
Nestled to the west of District 11 is the six-county District 14. This district is also bordered on the south by the Ohio River. The entire area is also in and among some of the famed, heavily timbered hills and hollows area of southeastern Indiana.
The district was led by Jefferson County's total of 2,119, followed closely behind by Jennings County's 1,766 deer.
As with some of the other southern areas, this district is still probably rec
overing from some of the losses due to EHD. Look for slight increases in coming seasons.
Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge is a 7,724-acre public land opportunity that exists on the Jackson and Jennings County line.
District 15 lies in the extreme southwestern corner of Indiana and is bordered by the Wabash River to the west, and the Ohio River to the south. This area sports thick stands of timber and rolling hills and hollows that are befitting of southern Indiana lore. This area has traditionally produced its share of deer, and 2009 proved no different.
This six-county area produced 8,358 whitetails last season and was led by the 1,747 killed in Perry County, with Posey County's total of 1,573 coming in right behind.
This southeastern area traditionally has produced plenty of deer, and no significant changes in the totals harvested are likely in the next few years.